Back to news

September 20, 2021 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

Canada caught off guard by new security pact between U.S., Australia and Britain

ROBERT FIFEOTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

STEVEN CHASESENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER

OTTAWA

PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 17, 2021

The Canadian government was surprised this week by the announcement of a new security pact between the United States, Britain and Australia, one that excluded Canada and is aimed at confronting China's growing military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific region, according to senior government officials.

Three officials, representing Canada's foreign affairs, intelligence and defence departments, told The Globe and Mail that Ottawa was not consulted about the pact, and had no idea the trilateral security announcement was coming until it was made on Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The defence ministers from the U.K. and Australia reached out to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to inform him of the decision shortly before the late-afternoon announcement. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau received a call from his Australian counterpart. Daniel Minden, a spokesperson for Mr. Sajjan, said Ottawa had been kept in the loop on talks between the countries.

One of the Canadian officials referred to the pact as the new “Three Eyes” and said it's clear that Canada's closest allies consider Ottawa to be a “weak sister” when it comes to standing up to China. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the officials because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Three Eyes is a reference to what is becoming a smaller club within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Five Eyes pact dates back about 75 years. Members share signals intelligence gleaned from intercepted communications, as well as military intelligence and intelligence gathered directly from human sources.

The new trilateral alliance, dubbed AUKUS, after the initials of the three countries, will allow for greater sharing of information in areas such as artificial intelligence and cyber and underwater defence capabilities. The U.S. and U.K. have also agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, which would allow it to conduct longer undersea patrols. Australia will become only the second country, after Britain in 1958, to be given access to U.S. nuclear propulsion technology.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday played down Canada's exclusion from the Indo-Pacific security deal, saying it is merely a way for the U.S. to sell nuclear submarines to Australia.

Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau said Canada will still have access to defence and intelligence sharing as a member of the Five Eyes alliance.

“We continue to be strong members of the Five Eyes,” he said. “This is a deal for nuclear submarines, which Canada is not currently or any time soon in the market for. Australia is.”

Retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who once commanded the Royal Canadian Navy, said Canada should have been part of this defence pact, which he described as a “somewhat unprecedented” trilateral arrangement.

He said he was surprised to hear Mr. Trudeau play down the pact as merely a submarine purchase deal. “I think it's misleading and concerning ... I would like to believe he was poorly briefed by his staff,” Mr. Norman said.

The retired naval flag officer said that, if Mr. Trudeau was fully briefed, “he doesn't understand what is going on internationally and he doesn't understand what the significance of an arrangement like this is as it relates to international security.”

He said the agreement goes far beyond access to U.S. submarine technology.

“This is about accessing both current and emerging technologies, from cyber and artificial intelligence, to acoustics and underwater warfare – a whole range of very important strategic capabilities.”

Mr. Norman said Canada has many national interests in the Indo-Pacific – including trade, promoting the rule of law and democracy, and countering China's aggressive behaviour and posturing – but he suspects close allies do not take Canadian defence commitments seriously.

“I don't think our allies think we are serious when it comes to defence. I think they have concerns not just about our defence expenditures, but also the extent to which our [international] commitments are both lasting and meaningful,” he said.

Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst and an associate professor of international relations at Carleton University, said the U.S.-U.K.-Australia defence pact is the latest evolution of military and intelligence co-operation between those three countries.

“Three Eyes is very real,” Prof. Carvin said. “Australia is strategic in making its presence known in Washington, arguably much more than Canada despite it being geographically closer.”

She said Canada not being a part of the new agreement is consistent with the country's low engagement in the Indo-Pacific. “We haven't been part of a military alliance in the Pacific since the Korean War. And the government has never addressed the question of if this is still the correct security posture.”

The leaders of the Conservative and New Democratic parties criticized Mr. Trudeau for Canada's exclusion from the pact. AUKUS, they said, could put added pressure on China to respect international norms and rein in its expansionism.

“This is another example that Mr. Trudeau is not taken seriously by our friends and allies around the world,” Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole told reporters at a campaign stop on Thursday. “Canada is becoming more irrelevant under Mr. Trudeau.”

Mr. O'Toole said he would seek to join the new Indo-Pacific security arrangement if the Conservatives are elected on Monday.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, speaking to reporters on Thursday, questioned whether Mr. Trudeau had given serious thought to the importance of the new trilateral pact while preoccupied with campaigning. By joining this arrangement, Canada could have ratcheted up pressure on China to free Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Mr. Singh said.

“The pact seems like a potential avenue to add more pressure [on China]. Canada was absent. Another reason why this election should not have been called,” Mr. Singh told reporters.

The U.S., U.K., Australia and Indo-Pacific countries have been growing alarmed about how Beijing is rapidly modernizing its armed forces and increasing its military presence in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

China reacted harshly to the new partnership. The three countries are “severely damaging regional peace and stability,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the U.S. decision, saying “we do not seek conflict with China.” Instead, she said, this is “about security in the Indo-Pacific.”

The submarine deal also represented a blow for France, because Australia intends to tear up a $40-billion agreement to buy French conventional submarines. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the loss of the deal a “stab in the back.”

Speaking at a news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defence ministers in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said France remains a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canadian-government-surprised-by-new-indo-pacific-security-pact/

On the same subject

  • Contracts awarded to enhance tracking and detecting capabilities of Halifax-class frigates

    February 4, 2019 | Local, Naval

    Contracts awarded to enhance tracking and detecting capabilities of Halifax-class frigates

    February 1st, 2019 –– Halifax (N.-S.) –– National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces As outlined in Canada's defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government of Canada is providing the Royal Canadian Navy with enhanced naval intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Today, on behalf of Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development, announced the award of two contracts valued at $186 million to General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada to upgrade and maintain underwater sensors installed in the modernized Halifax-class frigates. The majority of this work will occur in Canada, creating and maintaining about 120 highly skilled jobs while supporting the continued growth and competitive advantage of the underwater sensor industrial capabilities in Canada. As a result of this investment, the Halifax-class frigates will be able to detect quieter targets at increased ranges. In addition, improved automation will allow sonar operators to improve their underwater warfare performance work and to focus on other priorities. This will make our frigates more effective in both coastal regions and the open-ocean. The Halifax-class multi-role frigates will remain the key contributor to naval operations for the next 20 years. The contracts announced today will increase the frigates' overall ability to deal with emerging and future threats, and ensure that the women and men of our Royal Canadian Navy have what they need to do the important job we ask of them. Quotes “Through our defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, we are investing in the women and men of our Royal Canadian Navy and making sure they are well equipped to address emerging threats. Threat detection is critical to initiate rapid defence countermeasures that protect our sailors and our ships. As the security environment continues to evolve, we will continue to adapt our naval capabilities, enabling effective defence of Canadian waters and meaningful contribution to international operations and exercises.” Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence “Communities across Canada, and here in Nova Scotia, will greatly benefit from this important long-term investment in skilled employment in Canada's technology sector. Our Government is making sure defence contracts bring prosperity and support as well as critical Canadian Armed Forces equipment. ” Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development “The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy helps to create jobs, supports innovation and stimulates economic growth in Canadian communities. These contracts will continue to advance Key Industrial Capabilities in Canada and help support our Royal Canadian Navy.” Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development “Our Government is committed to building a more agile, better-equipped military, while supporting the Canadian economy. These enhancements to the Halifax-class frigates will provide the Royal Canadian Navy with the latest technology it needs to detect incoming threats.” Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility “Defence contracts create tangible benefits for Canadians. These defence contracts will bring highly skilled jobs and generate economic opportunities to communities on the East Coast and in Canada for many years, while supporting the operations of the Royal Canadian Navy. Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Quick facts Halifax-class frigate sonar operators detect, locate and track surface and sub-surface threats through the continuous monitoring and collection of information via high-tech sensors. The $186 million contracts include acquisition and upgrade for the first six Halifax-class frigates ($103 million) and in-service support (potentially $83 million). The contracts include options to upgrade all twelve Halifax-class frigates, which would bring the acquisition portion of to $170 million. The in-service support contract will maintain and sustain upgraded suites for up to 23 years, if all options are exercised. The first installation of the upgraded underwater warfare suite is expected to be completed in 2021 and operational in 2022. Licensed Defence Research and Development Canada Intellectual Property forms the basis of the winning technical bid for the UWSU Project. A repository of re-usable software has been developed over 25 years by DRDC in support of RCN and RCAF technology demonstration projects in underwater warfare. The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy applies to this project, creating jobs and supporting key industrial capabilities in Canada. Associated links Canadian Patrol Frigates Halifax-class modernization and frigate life extension https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2019/02/contracts-awarded-to-enhance-tracking-and-detecting-capabilities-of-halifax-class-frigates.html

  • L3 MAS WINS MORE F/A-18 INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS

    November 14, 2018 | Local, Aerospace

    L3 MAS WINS MORE F/A-18 INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS

    MIRABEL, Quebec, November 13, 2018 – L3 MAS announced today that it has been awarded two contracts to provide In-Service Support (ISS) services for international F/A-18 fleet operators. RUAG Aviation recently awarded L3 MAS a contract for the provision of preventive modifications for high-priority structural locations on the inner wings of the Swiss Air Force (SAF) F/A-18 aircraft fleet. These modifications are part of the Structural Refurbishment Program (SRP2), as part of the strategy to ensure their F/A-18 fleet safely reaches its planned life objective. L3 MAS was also selected by Mississippi-based Vertex Aerospace LLC to perform depot-level modifications and repairs on three NASA F/A-18 aircraft based out of the Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. L3 MAS will conduct all on-aircraft work at its Mirabel facility. “We are pleased to expand our ongoing relationship with the SAF's prime contractor, RUAG Aviation, and to add NASA (through Vertex Aerospace) as a new customer to our list of F/A-18 international operators. These contracts are a testament to the continued confidence of the international F/A-18 community in L3 MAS as a fighter aircraft center of excellence,” said Jacques Comtois, Vice President and General Manager of L3 MAS. “Our company possesses unique and proven skills, tools and experienced personnel to offer world-class services and value to fighter aircraft operators.” L3 MAS is a world leader in developing and implementing F/A-18 structural solutions, having already successfully completed major structural programs for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, and assisting other F/A-18 users, including the SAF, the Finnish Air Force, the U.S. Navy and NASA. About L3 MAS L3 MAS, a division within L3's ISR Systems business segment, is Canada's leading In-Service Support (ISS) integrator. L3 MAS delivers innovative and integrated solutions that span the full spectrum of ISS. This includes fleet management, annual maintenance planning and optimization; Life-Cycle Material Management (LCMM); Integrated Logistics Support (ILS); Electronic Information Environments (EIE); systems engineering; material management; configuration management; publications; and data management. L3 MAS is also known for its design, prototyping, manufacture, repair and overhaul, and certification of aerospace components. The company is headquartered in Mirabel, Quebec, and employs 800 people at operating centres across Canada. To learn more about L3 MAS, please visit the company's website at www.L3T.com/MAS. About L3 Technologies L3 Technologies is an agile innovator and leading provider of global ISR, communications and networked systems, and electronic systems for military, homeland security and commercial aviation customers. With headquarters in New York City and approximately 31,000 employees worldwide, L3 develops advanced defense technologies and commercial solutions in pilot training, aviation security, night vision and EO/IR, weapons, maritime systems and space. The company reported 2017 sales of $9.6 billion. To learn more about L3, please visit the company's website at www.L3T.com. https://www.aeromontreal.ca/L3-MAS-Wins-More-F18-International-Business.html

  • Federal budget 2021: defence and security - Open Canada

    April 29, 2021 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    Federal budget 2021: defence and security - Open Canada

    The world is changing. Trudeau stays the course.

All news